Sunday, 16 September 2012

The role of social media in customer communications

In the last couple of weeks I have become rather obsessed with my twitter account and not because I want to tell people what I have just consumed for breakfast.

Last week on the way to work I realised that I had forgotten my annual season ticket (a piece of paper worth over £2000!!) and had to buy a return ticket. I didn’t mind doing this as I knew that I had read on the train provider’s website that they would refund in full the first ticket bought in the case of forgetting my annual season ticket.

To be honest I forgot about the ticket for a few days and then turned up at Clapham Junction station at the customer service to request a refund. The abrupt lady at the desk told me that I couldn’t get a refund from here and I must go back to the place where I purchased the ticket and discuss it with them there. I was a little annoyed but it made sense as I presumed they had to keep track of it somewhere. The following morning in Dorking I repeated my story to the customer service desk. I was unhelpfully told that I would need to produce my actual ticket as well as my receipt in order to receive a refund. I have to admit that I sarcastically asked whether he meant the ticket that had been “swallowed” by the ticket barriers in order to allow me to exit the station. He told me that I should not have used the tickets at the barrier! (Still trying to understand the idiocy of this comment!)

After a frustrating 5 minute conversation about how I would not be receiving the refund I was entitled to, I left feeling let down and quite frankly, annoyed. It was at this point I turned to my twitter account to tweet my annoyance at the situation directly to Southern trains head office. I have used this tactic a few times and tend to get a fairly swift response and so I wasn’t surprised when I got a public message within 3 minutes asking me for further details.

I don’t know whether it is the fact that social media customer service teams are often a dedicated resource or whether it is because companies are more aware of the impact public negative feedback can have but I always seem to solve issues with companies quicker if I do it online in a public forum.

Within 5 minutes of tweeting I had been sent a PO BOX address in Bristol that I could send my receipt to and expect to receive a full refund ... something that one of the face-to-face customer service team should have been able to tell me. It would have saved a lot of huffing, puffing and frustration.

On the other hand I recently read a story about someone who received instructions from a company’s social media team that referred them to another part of the business ... that then did not deliver and the person felt even more let down and frustrated then before. There is also the worry that twitter's ability to give instantaneous responses could potentially be harmful if those using it are not properly briefed or trained.

I am interested to hear what your opinion is on the place of social media within customer service communications? Is it revolutionising our customer solution strategies or is it just making it more complicated with the potential to easily damage their organisation’s reputation?

I would be interested to know your thoughts. 

No comments:

Post a Comment